I added a video to You Tube, well, basically a slideshow that consists of old photos. Most of them show the cities of Clare, Harrison and Farwell. The show lasts about 6 minutes and music in the background. The photos are primarily from the collection Forrest Meek gave to Mid-Michigan Community College. Here’s the link to the show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTX84V-VZfM
Paraphrased from the story of the same name from the book “At Ease With Col. Sharp,” by Dale Sharp.
Who knows if this story about the well digger, Oliver Gosine, is true or not? Oliver lived until the ripe old age of 101 and some of his stories and exploits were recorded in “Ticket to Hell, A Saga of Michigan’s Bad Men.” Its author, Roy Dodge, reported that Oliver used to work for saloonkeeper and brothel owner Jim Carr, who was one of the most dispicable people this state has ever known. Dodge also wrote that Oliver cut ice during the winter in Harrison’s Budd Lake. However, Dodge doesn’t mention anything about Oliver’s well-digging prowess and it’s not mentioned elsewhere as far as I know. Now Oliver is also known for a tombstone he built for himself complete with a mirror. The tombstone can be seen in Harrison’s Maple Grove Cemetery. And the mirror, well, that’s another story and the subject of another post on my blog. This particular story, true or not, is about Oliver, well digging and a horse. I hope Col. Sharp, wherever he is, will forgive me for rewriting his story and publishing it on my blog.
In the spring of 1889, Harrison was still basically a lumber town but homesteaders were building and claiming the land in the area. The conversion from lumber to farming was just beginning. Jim Carr, undoubtedly the most despicable person to ever live in Clare County, was history. It was a fresh time and Oliver Gosine was the best well digger in Clare County.
Gosine was kept busy digging wells. People literally stood in line to employ him. However, the only way Oliver liked water was mixed with a little bourbon.
One May morning in 1889, Oliver was getting ready to dig a well for a homesteader when the sheriff rode up and asked Oliver to stop what he was doing and dig a well for the county jail. Apparently the well at the jail had just about gone dry and they needed a well pronto. In the interest of the village’s welfare, Oliver took on the job.
The way Oliver dug a well went something like this: He would dig down the first six feet by hand. Once he had a hole six foot wide and about the same deep, he would take a large bucket and toss it down into the hole. Now the line was secured to Oliver’s horse, Old Gray, with a long rope. Oliver would climb down into the hole, fill the bucket with sand, climb in the bucket, yell “git up” and then slowly he and the bucket would be taken to the top as Old Gray moved slowly away from the hole. Oliver would unload the bucket and repeat the process until he struck water—usually 18 to 30 feet down.
Things apparently went well on this dig until the third day. It was then Oliver struck a rock. Deciding dynamite was the only way to deal with the problem Oliver had Old Gray “git up” to pull him and the bucket out of the hole. Oliver then commenced to walk over to Hughes Brothers Hardware and bought himself five sticks of the explosive, a blasting cap and a couple feet of fuse. Going back into the hole he packed the five sticks under the stone, tamped it all down, lit the fuse, climbed into the bucket and yelled up at the horse to “git up.” Well, nothing happened. Oliver yelled louder and still the bucket and he remained unmoving in the hole as the fuse burned closer to the dynamite meant to blow the rock to smithereens. In a state of panic, Oliver dove out of the bucket toward the rock, crawled over to the fuse and pulled it out at the last second.
A couple of hours later, one of the local judges was walking home and spied the horse standing half asleep at the top of the hole and Oliver at the bottom of it fit-to be-tied. The judge led the horse away from the hole bringing the bucket up. When the bucket and well-digger reached the top Oliver lit into the horse with a litany of expletives in two languages (Oliver also knew French).
The judge went home not too much afterward swore he heard a gunshot but passed it off as routine in this rural community. The next day walking to work he noticed a large crowd around Oliver’s not quite completed well. He peered over the edge and saw Old Gray standing at the bottom, blood dripping from its head and what appeared to be a boot print on its rump.
Sheriff Thompson was summoned, and although the evidence was circumstantial Oliver was arrested for cruelty to animals.
It apparently took two days to put the horse in a sling and pull it up the 20 feet from the bottom of the well, apparently none the worse for wear despite its wound.
As to Oliver, he went to trial. Although the boot print on Old Gray’s rump matched the one Oliver wore and the fact Oliver had a derringer in his pocket that the sheriff sniffed and announced that it had been fired, Oliver was found not guilty by a Judge Green. Rumor had it that Green was beholding to Oliver since the latter had taken the rap for illegal pike spearing while Green hid in the bushes.
Anyway, the next day Oliver and Old Gray were seen heading off toward Leota for some fishing. The next morning Oliver returned alone–and on foot. When he was asked what happened, Oliver said that Old Gray had just stopped in the road near Jed McCord’s place, rolled over and died. Oliver said Jed offered him $5 for the carcass to feed Jeb’s hounds, and he took the offer. “Now gentleman, what would you have done?” Oliver would ask with a twinkle in his eye.
By the way, the story doesn’t say whether Oliver ever finished that well at the jail. However, it does say that on the day Oliver reported that Old Gray had died of “natural causes” Jed recalled hearing a gunshot. You can draw your own conclusion.
I was looking through some back issues of the Clare County Cleaver, a local newspaper with offices in Harrison. The folks at the office are always very open to allowing me to go through their archives. They don’t even ask if I’m a resident and/or subscriber (I am both). Anyway, it’s fascinating to look through the papers, to read the stories and look at the old ads. I was perusing some issues in 1946 the other day to get some information about a fatal plane crash at the airport in Harrison when I came across this ad so I took a photo. How things have changed in the intervening decades.
A Walk Along an Old Railroad Bed
I went for a long walk a couple of weeks ago (before the winter snow) on state land, along a path that was once the bed of an old railroad track that ran from Hatton to Dodge City, a distance of about 11 miles.
Hatton is now a ghost town and driver’s driving down Hatton Rd. south of the town of Harrison, a small town in mid-Michigan Clare County will find little evidence it ever existed. Dodge, on the other hand is now a quiet community with cottages nestled around small lakes.
There is little at either site to suggest they were once vibrant logging communities with post office, homes, businesses and more supporting the railroad and workers from nearby logging camps.
The location of the bed I walked is off the south side of Mostetler Road (also called Mosteller) across from Michigan Moto Mania and located a couple of miles east of Harrison.
Mostetler is an east-west gravel road that passes private and public land filled with scrub pines, oaks and cedar, and dotted with occasional homes.
The road is named for a former logging camp/town Mosteller that existed for about five years in the 1870’s when this area’s massive white pines were cut and hauled south to build homes in growing cities like Detroit, Saginaw, Flint and even Chicago.None of the trees remain and even the stumps, some that measured nearly 5-feet across have decayed in the intervening years.
While the tracks, pilings and all evidence of the trains are gone, the bed is still relatively easy to find in most areas, especially in the fall and winter after the frost has killed the vegetation (not to mention the mosquitoes). Like all rail beds, this one runs straights and is relatively level since trains needed a grade in the order of 1 or 2 percent to safely haul the heavy logs. It is easy to see where workers raised the rail bed in areas or sunk it in others to keep the rail bed level.
The walk I took headed south and I passed small creeks and downed trees. The walk also took me near to Mostetler Creek that begins in the Dodge City area, crosses Mostetler Road and then flows through state land before disappearing by the time it reaches M-61 to the south.
This site is popular with hunters in the fall since the roadbed makes for easy walking. At the same time, hikers may have a difficult time in the summer since the land near the road is swampy for the first couple of hundred years. However, once further in the woods, the land is dry and sandy and quite peaceful.
If you want to see a railroad bed in Clare County, this is a nice one to see. And maybe if you stand still and close your eyes you might even hear a faint whistle of a train long gone.
I month of so ago I completed a small group study sponsored by Brown Corner’s United Brethren Church north of Clare. It was called “One Month to Live,” based on a book of the same name by Kerry and Chris Shook. The premise behind the book was a simple one: If you suddenly knew you only had 30 days left on this earth, what would be your priorities during those final times? And shouldn’t we live life now based on those priorities whether we have 30 days or 30 years? I wrote about the study in a previous post.
Anyway, each of the 30 chapters in the book began with two quotes from well-known or not well-known (at least to me) individuals and pertained to the subject matter of the chapter. I found myself savoring many of those quotes to the point that I typed up the ones I found most meaningful (about 25 of the 60 quotes) and have posted them by my front door. Those quotes appear below and they are in the order they appear in the book.
Do I have favorites among them? A few, and I have highlighted those. Take a read through them and see if they speak to you as they did me. You might just want to post one or two by your front door or on your mirror to review on a daily basis. And have a good year.
Death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives.
I am convinced that it is not the fear of death, of our lives ending, that haunts our sleep so much as the fear…that as far as the world is concerned, we might as well never have lived.
I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.
You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.
A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.
He who cannot forgive others destroys the bridge over which he himself must pass. George Herbert
He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.
Martin Luther King Jr.
The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference.
They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you. John Southard
Remember that everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something and has lost something.
He became what we are that He might make us what He is.
There lives in each of us a hero awaiting a call to action.
H. Jackson Brown Jr.
All that I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.
How does one become a butterfly?…You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.
Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional. We cannot avoid pain but we can avoid joy.
God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters to large for some of us to see.
The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.
The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward for that faith is to see what you believe. St. Augustine
The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it. Henry David Thoreau
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.
Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
Here is a test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t. Richard Bach
Though no one can go back and make a brand-new start, anyone can start now and make a brand new ending.
Serving Summons and Shooting Stray Dogs…
I bought 13 diaries on eBay the other day for more money than I care to admit. The diaries were from the years 1939 through 1952, although 1944 was missing. They had once belonged to a sheriff in Harrison, Michigan, or at least to someone in the Sheriff’s Department in that mid-Michigan town located in Clare County. When I bought the diaries I was hoping it would provide a wealth of information, a window into the life of a rural sheriff, including how he spent his time, and would include names and events.
Sadly I didn’t get a wealth of information, more like a trickle, and as for the window
anlogy…well I see through the glass there but darkly. Turns out the diaries–and diaries is not the right name although I am not sure what to call them–were really served as a place to list events and activities for which the sheriff either was paid (like issuing a summons) or needed to pay others (like hiring a deputy for the day if he was on the road). Still it was an interesting read and my biggest impression is that the sheriff spent a lot of time issuing summonses and shooting dogs. For the former, the sheriff received $2 and for the latter $1–and the fee for shooting a dog never changed from 1930 through 1952.
I jotted down a few of the items written in the books I found interesting. Items in quotations are direct quotes from the books and items in parenthesis are my comments or thoughts.) And although the shooting of dogs and the issuing of summonses make up the biggest part of the diaries I have spared you from reading all but maybe one or two.
(Charge for mileage: 5 cents per mile; meals: 50 cents; serving papers: $2.50; Addition charge if a deputy is required: $1; pay for deputy if needed for a day: $3)
June 15–“Fred Dorsy chicken stolen. Art Olsen cows killed.
Aug. 20: “Complaint in Temple on Lester Bowen”
Aug. 21: “Arrested Lester Bowen”
Aug. 25: “Lester Bowen hearing”
Nov. 7: “Start of Bowen trial”
Nov. 10: “Took Bowen to Jackson”
(No mention of Bowen’s crime, his conviction or his sentence)
(Sheriff appears to have been a S. M. Amble)
March 15: “Picked up 5 boys from Freeman Twp for unlawfully driving a car belonging to ____ Gould. Namely RIchard and Robert Barton, Russ Goodrich, Chas. Waldron and Darrell Weage.”
March 21: “Boys sentenced to 3 months probation”
(One of the boys listed above still appears in the local phone book. Can’t be sure it’s the same person but it would be interesting to call and find out. Wouldn’t he be surprised?)
March 21: “Killed and buried dog – $1”
(There are many mentions of the killing of stray dogs. Sometimes two at a time and sometimes the name of either the person requesting the killing or the owner of the dogs is listed. Not sure who they are. And sometimes there is a notation that the head was cut off and sent to Lansing–probably for testing for rabies.)
Aug. 24: “Hughes store broken into at night.and $3.50 taken from cash register.”
Oct. 18: “Investigated pig shooting.”
(Mileage rate now 10 cents. Reimbursement for breakfast: 70 cents; dinner: $1)
Feb. 23: “Robt. Kroll house burned. 3-year-old-boy burned to death.”
(There is no entry on Dec. 7, but then many pages in the book lack entries and because the bombing of Pearl Harbor occurred on a Sunday there would not be much happening on a Sunday in Harrison anyway.)
March 23: “Repairs on car: $4”
(Mileage reimbursement now 12 cents)
June 29: Airplane crash at Airport. Killed Barbara Wenig, Paul Treadwell and Wenig.”
(No more information on the type of plane involved or the reason for the crash.)
June: Sheriff’s Convention in Marquette
Feb. 18: “Served summons on Spikehorn for Harold Hughes”
April 7: “Ice off of Budd Lake.”
Aug. 10: “Found body of Frank Biker”
Oct. 8: “Served tax notice on Spikehorn”
(Spikehorn was a local character around Harrison who kept beers and had run-ins with locals and with the state conservation department. I was surprised that I did not find more mentions of him.)
Aug. 25: “Arrested Vern Charette and Richard Henry for maliciously destroying property at state park”
(A Vern Charette is still listed in the local phone book)
Oct. 24: “First snow flakes”
Oct. 29: “Albert Eaton died”
Nov. 19: “Wet snow storm. Froze roads. Very icy. Wreck near James Hill. 2 people killed.”
Nov. 20: “Bad traffic jams. Lots of accidents.”
(The ice storm would have hit during the opening week of deer hunting season when a lot of visitors come to this part of the state. I am curious to know however, where a traffic jam would have occurred and what the sheriff considered a traffic jam.)
(Deputy pay for a day: $5)
(Mileage rates seems to have decreased from 12 cents to 10 cents a mile)
Feb. 5: “Mertle Shummway shot Ray”
Feb. 6: “(2:30 a.m.) Drove Roy to Gladwin Hospital”June
April 13: “Budd Lake opened up”
June 30: “Mertle sentenced to 2 1/2 years in House of Correction”
(No idea what drove Mertle to shoot her husband, the seriousness of his wounds or what happened after Mertle was released from jail.)
April 18: “Ice out of Budd Lake”
And that’s a recap of the diaries. Now you know as much as I do–and for much less.I may stop by the local paper, the Clare County Cleaver and take a look into their archives to find out more about some of these stories. And as tempted as I am to call a couple of the people mentioned in the diaries, I will let sleeping dogs lie and hope the sheriff won’t shoot them.
Today is the first day of winter, a.k.a. the shortest day of the year. According to a news report, the solstice actually occurred around 12:01 a.m. That means from this point on, the amount of time the sun will be above the horizon increases a little each day (not that one can see it through all the clouds). Right now the sun is setting later but will continue to rise a little later in the morning, at least until Jan. 6, 2012. However, sunset is later enough each day to more than offset the later sunrise.
Today for example, there will be five seconds more daylight than yesterday. Yes, I understand it’s an insignificant amount but it’s moving in the right direction and that’s the important thing, so work with me here. Yes, I know the temperatures will continue to fall (average temps around this area fall until mid-February) and I know the snow will start to pile up and the winds will howl and…well, you get the picture. However, there will be more light to see all that snow and ice and stuff and light is a good thing. So instead of dwelling on the snow, ice and slippery roads, think about the fact the days are getting longer. And think spring!
I’ve changed my blog title from “The Moving Finger” to “The Moving Finger in Mid-Michigan” with the tagline “Random musings of Michigan, its History and More.” The title and tagline are more reflective of what I have been writing about since most of my blog entries deal with mid-Michigan, especially Clare and Gladwin counties and history of the area. The name change and addition of tags should help people better find my blog. At least that’s the idea.
And yes, I am still looking for a job (my former tagline mentioned that my musings were done while in search of a job); however, I want people to know that I find the history of this section of the state to be fascinating and this blog is one way for me to share that love.
I use Amerigas up here in Clare County. I use them only because the former owner of my property leased the tank from the company so I have continued to do so. However, I wish I didn’t. Amerigas has the worst customer service in the world.
Here’s the story: I have an online account with them and recently needed to change my credit card number because Amerigas couldn’t bill me. My bad. I had not updated my credit card with them.
When I attempted to do so, I was unable to get into my Amerigas account using the password I had been using. No big deal, I thought so I requested a new password using the Amerigas online system. Sadly, their online system would not respond. I tried again and again got the same lack of response. So I gave up and decided to call instead. Then suddenly a temporary password showed up from Amerigas in my mailbox. Problem over, I thought.
Wrong, as it turned out.
The system would not let me in using the new password and finally locked me out. So I tried to call them using the phone number in the email. The email also said their call center was open until 8 p.m. EST. Very convenient I thought as I called one early evening. I went through the many prompts on the Amerigas phone system only to be told the office closed at 5 p.m. Thinking I was mistaken I reread the email. “Open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.” it read.
So I tried again the next day about the same time after receiving yet another email from them that gave the 8 p.m. closing time. Same result.
So the third day I called earlier and was placed on hold. After a time a message came on saying I could just leave my name, account number and phone number and someone would try to call me back within the half hour. So I waited. And waited and waited.
The few days later I called again. This time midday. Was placed on hold, left a message when prompted and waited. Still no response. Today I called yet a third time and the wait continues although more than two hours has already elapsed.
So each day, Amerigas tries to bill my account and sends me an email when they are unable to do so. And each day I call. I am happy to report however that their email now gives the 5 p.m. closing time so that’s a step in the right direction. But not a big one and it doesn’t change my opinion of the company.
I have always hated Amerigas and I don’t hate too many companies. It stems from a few years ago when I didn’t lock in my rate for propane because gas prices were low and the price of propane (which is petroleum-based) basically follows the price of gas. Also, by not locking in my rate I saved $100.
Amerigas monitors my tank and normally come out whenever the propane level in my tank is 30 percent or less. On this particular day a few years ago, the tank was nearly full when the truck came out. I was not alarmed. They were there so they filled the tank. When I got the bill however, I about hit the ceiling. Amerigas had charged me around $5/gallon for propane.
I immediately called their call center (this time I had easily gotten through). Their explanation: On that particular day the price of propane had spiked for some reason to $5/gallon in that region. Just that day. No, they didn’t know why. No, they couldn’t tell me anything more. No, they couldn’t cut my bill. No. No. No. And yes, I should have locked in the rate. Luckily for me my tank hadn’t been empty or I would have been looking at a $3000 bill.
I should have left them that year but with fees for turning off service and disconnecting service and picking up the tank I didn’t. And that’s why today I sit and wait for Amerigas to call me back although I realize the call may never come. So while I sit and wait I continue to hate. Amerigas sucks. Stay away.
Dec. 20 Update: Amerigas called me back at 7:15 p.m. last night but I was not available to answer the phone so I called them back this morning (Dec. 20) a few minutes after they opened. I was on hold for 10 minutes before a polite gentleman named Jason answered the phone and reset my password. All my delays and time spent waiting for something that took Jason all of two minutes. I thanked Jason for his help and told him Amerigas customer service was horrible and asked that he pass that up to the powers-that-be within the company. I reset my password and updated my account. For now, all is well.
Dec. 22 Update: I thought all was well with my Amerigas account but I was sadly mistaken. Yesterday I received an email that Amerigas had successfully billed my new credit card for a $20.09 payment. Now this payment attempt goes back to early December when I received the first indication that I had an invalid card attached to my account. And while I tried to get it all sorted out, I DID send them the payment via check so my account was up to date. In fact, when I talked to Jason he assured me it was up to date and when I was able to access my account online I verified it was up to date. Well, apparently with everyone but the computer at Amerigas, which billed my credit card. Thank goodness it is a relatively small amount. Had it been my entire bill for propane it could be devastating to my account. I contacted Amerigas yesterday to ask that the amount be credited. I have not heard back from them. My battle continues.
Graphic is from Photobucket.com
I have a small parcel west of Harrison back in the woods. When my now ex-wife and I bought it 10 years ago or so, we put a 1/4 mile trail that winds along the edge of a small shallow pond and through the woods that cover much of the property.
Not long after that our neighbor who we let walk the trails mentioned that she could see the outline of a dirt foundation next to the trail and about 100 feet from the pond. The foundation, for lack of a better term, was a a raised sand rectangle measuring about 16×20 feet. Trees up to 6-inches in diameter grew on and in the rectangle showing it had been there for a long time.
However, it was a sign of human habitation (loggers, Indians, hunters) and got me excited so I dug through a couple of sections of the foundation looking for nails, wood or other signs of former walls. Sadly, nothing so I figured it must have just made to channel the rain outside of a large tent and probably made by hunters that might have frequented the site in the past when the pond was a lake and a nearby empty stream bed that runs through my property was once an active stream. Other than a few rusted tin cans I found nothing of value or interest. So I left it well enough alone until this fall.
Some friends were coming up for the weekend so I took a rake and raked the interior of the foundation clean of leaves and debris, took a chain saw and cut out many of the trees and shrubs and dug out my metal detector.I was determined to figure out what the foundation was and whether there was anything of value in there.
The answers: I don’t know and no. That weekend we set to work detecting and digging. Inside we found junk including two broken horseshoes (different styles) a conventional belt buckle, some hardware and broken pieces of tin. That means I still don’t know what it was or what it was used for. Why it showed signs of people AND horses is beyond me. The neatest thing was a railroad spike. It was not a large spike that one associates with the railroad. This one was about 6 inches long and an inch in diameter. I had seen these spikes before and was told they were used to construct narrow gauge railroads. Once the railroad was no longer needed, the tracks were pulled up and the rails, couples, spikes and more were reused in order to save money. Apparently, the spike I found was left behind and might indicate that a logging railroad line DID in fact run across my property at one time.
However, those finds were not the end of the story. Much of my pond evaporates by fall and the mucky ground is hard enough to stand on, so we took the metal detector out and set to work. It didn’t take long to find three items of interest: An axe head, a foot-long section of what appears to be a narrow-gauge railroad track and a piece of plow.
Now I am more confused than ever. I know for a fact the property was lumbered–all the county was since it contained huge forests of white pine. The logging explains the axe head (although why someone would pitch a totally good axe into the lake/pond is beyond me. But what about the section of track and the spike found earlier? Was there a narrow-gauge railroad that ran along the creek on my property? I now have some evidence to support that fact. Other evidence includes a line indicating a railroad that appears on a map created by two members of the Clare County Historical Society. (Clare County had more logging railroads then any other county in Michigan, according to historian Roy Dodge who wrote the book, “Ghost Towns in Michigan.” But why the horseshoes and the foundation? And what about the plow? There is no evidence this area was ever farmed.
But the rains came and filled the pond and winter has arrived freezing both the pond and the ground, that means any further explorations must wait until spring.
As for my three major finds from the pond, I donated them to the Clare County Historical Society. They may use them in their displays in their museum at the corner of Surry and Eberhart roads. The museum is closed now but reopens in the spring. And maybe by then I will have found even MORE stuff to donate.